Today's guest post, an affective singularity, comes from Nate Pritts, who shared why he writes poetry back in July (click here to read).
Nate Pritts is the Director and Founding Editor of H_NGM_N (2001), an independent publishing house that started as a mimeograph ‘zine, and the author of eight books of poetry, including Decoherence, which won the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award and is available for order now. He lives in the Finger Lakes region of NY State. Learn more at natepritts.com.
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An Affective Singularity
We live in a time of conspicuous destruction. Material creation, the biological sphere, spiritual reality – each of these realms are being dragged apart resulting in a fractured world marked by implacable fragmentation, forced estrangement, a fundamental decoherence.
And in the face of this relentless annihilation, language has been reduced to mere instrumentation – a function of living rather than a vibrant and intrinsic occasion through which we live. Online bursts in a closed loop, binary programming, blunt and categorical statements without any of the nuance, or the wonderful searching uncertainty, that marks the workings of consciousness. A Facebook status, a live tweet thread, hashtag #Checkedin wherever we go in order to reassure ourselves that our lives are alive on the screen – the screen that's open in front of us, wide open in front of everyone. And our once infinite horizons, both the vast external and internal without limit, are now confined to a small rectangle of unnatural light.
The implications are dire. I believe there is a connection between our capacity to think, to feel, and our ability to articulate those processes and sensitivities. But it seems our intellect is no longer elastic enough to encompass more than echoes, can't conceive of leaps and connections beyond repetition, can't process the rich subtleties of emotion without relying on blunt emphasis or insistence. And so we are in danger of losing ourselves as well as the larger environment we are enmeshed with.
As language and writing suffer and erode, so to does our humanity. Which brings me to poetry. I have a sense of poetry in which the form itself – the tension of the lines, the discipline of committing to a process that takes time – can become a restorative spiritual activity. It's an act of communication with earnest effort and diligent love inherent in its form. And there's a way in which poetry helps me to communicate what needs to be communicated, but also encourages and scaffolds the thought process, the process of feeling. Poetry, then, is a spiritual process – a type of soul-talking. It can generate the self, and enkindle the soul, furnishing the architecture of identity through writing it and reading it. The poetry in my new book, Decoherence, seeks to bring a sense of humanist wisdom to the ceaseless flow of data – all as a way of getting us to recognize the sacred space we already inhabit.
Mircea Eliade said that the sacred is “the experience of a reality and the source of the consciousness of existing in the world.” That seems a serviceable definition of what poetry can work toward. And it is related to Eliade’s sense of hierophany, a manifestation of the sacred, a trace of the supranatural. So we have both poetry as an activity we engage in and the poem as the hand of the divine. To me, this indicates that a reinvigorated sense of the sacred can help save the very soul of the world, and that we can get closer to this through the writing of poetry.
No matter how many data points are plotted or how deep the dive into layers and layers of information, our technoscience provides insights that remain intellectual, abstracted from reality and rely on a constriction of identity, forcing it to remain local.
But people are silence, continuously manifesting outside the lines of a spreadsheet, hungry for revelation. And the world is silence, too, but one that is evocative and charged, an invisible architecture we can recognize if we listen.
Perhaps inhabiting the sacred can facilitate an encounter between the penetrating mechanisms of science and the intuitive faculties of consciousness in a way that opens perception to a fuller picture of reality.
I write poetry as an attempt to draw closer to those energies resident in all things, to listen hard and to see clearly, as a way to recover some sense of the hidden workings of reality itself. It is an attempt to pay attention to the invisible, to the unintentional, and through that attention to become aware, to render those movements visible and to reclaim intention from the machine that seems so much to be driving us.
It is a means of harnessing and honing the very substance of reality itself, of demonstrating and performing consciousness at work. The activity of poetry is larger than its result. In fact, the poem is really just a by-product of a spiritual commitment to a way of life that can change the world.
And, in this way, poetry can take on a life of it own, in us and through us, can reach an affective singularity of wisdom and tenderness and love, can become again what it has always been – a means of survival, a path to understanding.
Not a credential but a creed.
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